Pilates Relieves Back Pain

Be Kind to Your Spine: Give it Pilates

A research article published in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy showed that Pilates-based therapeutic exercise significantly decreased pain and disability in patients with chronic low back pain (J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2006; 36:472-484).

No surgery! No medications! And something that makes you feel good while you are doing it. But it isn’t quick. And it will cost a modest amount of money. In the research article, subjects with low back pain participated in three hours of supervised Pilates per week for a month. But the positive results lasted over a 12-month follow-up period. At LNK Pilates, we recommend clients with back pain take Pilates twice a week, starting with private instruction to learn proper technique.

Why does Pilates work? Your spine is an amazing biomechanical structure that works smoothly and efficiently with correct postural alignment and motor control. Activities of daily living in the modern world sabotage our spine creating poor posture, muscle imbalance and inability to properly stabilize the spine during movement. It’s no wonder that back pain is the second most common cause for visiting the doctor!

Pilates works in a variety of ways.

First, Pilates strengthens the deep muscles that stabilize the spine.

Called local stabilizers, these muscles don’t move the spine-at least not much-but play a critical role in stabilizing the boney structures of the spine during movement. If these muscles are not strong, the spine will be subject to excessive wear & tear when the global mobilizing muscles are activated. In Pilates, a key component of each exercise is teaching proper stabilization of the Core (spine, hip & shoulder girdle) while the body is moving.

Second, Pilates lengthens and strengthens opposing muscle groups.

For instance, the hamstrings in the back of the leg balance the quadriceps muscle in the front of the leg. If the hamstrings are shortened, they exert an abnormal pull on the pelvis and spine causing the back to “flatten” and lose some of its’ natural protection. Pilates lengthens the hamstrings allowing the back to maintain its’ natural curve.

Try sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Look at your low back in the mirror. If your back is flat or flexed, your hamstrings may be shortened. If you start to feel discomfort in the front of your legs near your hip joints shortly after you assume the position, your abdominal muscles may be weak causing your hip flexors to work overly hard to keep you sitting up straight. Just two examples of the havoc our modern day life can wreak upon our body!

Third, Pilates teaches you proper muscular activation.

If the muscles do not fire in the proper order when you move, there will be wear and tear on the spine. Weakness and dysfunction of the gluteal muscles can cause the low back to work harder than it should and exert an abnormal force on the lumbar spine.

This can be tested. Lie on your stomach and extend one leg into the air. If the movement is initiated by activating the muscles in the low back rather than the glutes, faulty movement patterns exist and may contribute to low back pain. In Pilates, we teach you how to move by cueing which muscles should be used at which time during a specific exercise.

Pilates works.

But like everything worth having, it takes time. On average, we recommend twice weekly sessions of 50 minutes for at least 10 weeks to feel a difference. In cases where disability is more severe, private instruction is recommended. As always, see your physician for diagnosis and medical treatment. But making Pilates part of your overall restorative health program will improve the way you look and feel.



Leave a Comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.